Cannabis Extract and Processing: Essential Considerations
The production of cannabis materials outside of dried cannabis flowers was a significant development in the Canadian market and has heralded the modernization of cannabis products in Canada and internationally. As industry leaders gear up for upcoming edible and concentrate products, all applicants and start-up producers must determine their scope of products, services and opportunities.
Consider the properties of different input materials and their possible applications, including:
- Isolates: >99% pure target cannabinoid
- Distillates: up to 95% pure target cannabinoid
- Resins: 80% of cannabinoids in a mixture based on the original plant material
Products can range from pharmaceutical grade additions to a medical regimen, a potent health and wellness product, or desirable recreational product. The options are nearly limitless. However, production of these materials requires significant consideration of scale, capital expenditure, technology, and infrastructure. In many cases there are a combination of these variables that can produce only a few truly viable production and business models.
Aspiring processors typically have projected tentative quantities of material that will pass through their system and therefore require in-depth assessment to meet their initial and future production goals, without having to retrofit or rebuild their facility. In general, it is more problematic to conduct construction activities during ongoing production than it is to make sure the project has been planned correctly from the onset.
Additional considerations include the level of equipment development, selection and training. Manufacturer training provides a thorough how-to on making the equipment work, and information regarding the equipment itself. Down to the last greased gasket, all materials must be reviewed, assessed and integrated into a reliable and comprehensive Quality Management System. Of course, this system must account for the biomass (hemp, cannabis flower or trim, etc) and its quantitative and qualitative analysis. For toll processors especially, a rigorous and thorough quality management system is critical to prevent equipment- and cross-contamination.
Processing extracts will often require the use of solvents (as approved under the Cannabis Act) and specialized equipment. Once the extract reaches a level of purity that meets specification, further processing into a final product such as a softgel capsule, edible, beverage, or vaporizer cartridge not only requires equipment, but also an understanding on how the extracts being made can be split across the desired product streams, their quality specifications, and trained personnel.
The greatest source of both success and error is human operation. Well-trained staff is essential: equipment training, operational SOP training with GMP focus, data capture, and inventory management are all critical areas in which errors may cause a delay in product release or non-compliance. All of these relate to staff education, selection, and recruitment.
Currently, the products available to the legal Canadian market are extremely limited, however the new classes of cannabis products to be introduced in October 2019 modernizes the consumer market for Canadian cannabis products.
CCI can help bring your vision to reality with extraction project services that range from business planning and strategy to productive implementation of extraction technologies on-site to recruitment of specialized functions for the extraction facility.
Written By: Jordan Gabriel, Senior Quality Regulatory Consultant